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Letter: A Smaller Planning Committee Reduces Local Participation

Published on: 31 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 31 Mar, 2017

From Ben Paton

Guildford Borough Council says that by reducing the number of councillors on the Planning Committee it wants to make the planning process more ‘efficient’. But that’s just an Orwellian euphemism that really means they want to reduce the opportunity for local people to express their concerns.

And they don’t just want to reduce local participation, they want to dictate the manner in which opinion can be expressed. It is apparently not sufficient that speeches are time limited. Now they must be memorised and not read from notes.

Given the massive sums of money to be made (and lost) by achieving changes in land use and the conflicts of interest that flow from this, the last thing we need is less scrutiny and oversight.

Reducing the size of the Planning Committee goes against the spirit of Localism. And it concentrates more power in the hands of a small politically motivated clique.

It is deeply ironic that the council should worry that reading statements is pre-deterministic – when it seems not to care a jot if the leader of the council is at the same time the lead member for the Local Plan and gives interviews to the press encouraging particular sites.

See also: Councillors Disagree Over Proposed Planning Committee Changes

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Responses to Letter: A Smaller Planning Committee Reduces Local Participation

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 31, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    It is plainly evident why the Executive wants to do this. It is to shut down any dissenting voices against its Mansbridge inherited “trajectory” of building massive new housing developments on the green belt. The exclusive membership will no doubt be hand selected by the leader, to ensure all are yes men/women.

    Why bother having a committee at all if it is to be nothing but a sham, just like the so-called “consultations” on the local plan?

    As to banning reading of speeches, this is clearly an attempt to scupper and unsettle those who are not accustomed to public speaking, unlike some of the verbose members on the council. After all, you don’t come up with expressions like “bloody rabble” by having prepared notes!

    What price localism and listening to the people?

  2. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 1, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    I think I can guess who will be invited by the Executive of GBC to sit on the Planning Committee – those whose opinions are the same as those who are running the show.

    So who will not be asked? I presume it will be: representatives of wards where there are too many local “trouble-makers”; people who have brought the wrong-doings of the Juneja coterie to public and Police notice; those who have noticed the failure of GBC to keep to its own avowed declaration that the council should be “open and transparent” in its dealings; those who have objected to the removal of villages from the green belt; those who resent public (our) money being spent on vanity projects and those councillors who have protested in the past about the Executive’s agenda.

    I cannot understand what is the difference between a speech prepared and learnt by heart and one that is read out. Either way the Executive could say that the statement is “pre-determined”, which is apparently against their latest plan to control what councillors may and may not say. Surely anyone who has read documents in advance of a debate will have noted all sides of the argument, and made some sort of decision as to their response. Debate just might result in a change of mind but probably wouldn’t.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    April 2, 2017 at 9:37 am

    This reduction of the Planning Committee strongly suggests the Executive councillors are in serious need of in-house education to realign their understanding of their tasks as elected councillors. They have been elected to follow the will of the people who elected them not for them to do as they please.

    To follow that will means that all councillors should have a say in planning. Not the selected few who regularly have meetings and sign documents which are commercially confidential, generated in a ‘safe space’ containing irrational information, twisting poorly worded government guidelines to suit the wishes of a minority, which is what is currently happening.

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